The Brock Talk

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Letter From Jockey Rene Douglas

I want to thank you for all your support, your prayers and all your messages. I've been trying to read all of your posts and little by little I will catch up.

I've been trying to start therapy but I've had a few issues with my lungs and that has prevented me from starting rehab in full. I'm getting stronger everyday with the help of my family and friends and I will give my best once I go back to rehab. The road ahead of me will be long and hard but I'm ready to face it and to do the best I can to complete it and to achieve the best results possible.

I would love to thank each one of you personally but if I did that I wouldn't have enough time to do therapy. Just know that I appreciate it and that your support inspires me everyday to continue and to give my all.

With Love,
Rene Douglas

Note: Jockey Rene Douglas remains hospitalized following a May 23 racing accident at Arlington Park near Chicago. The above letter was written by Rene and posted to the Rene Douglas Get Well Card on Facebook by his wife Natalia on June 30.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What's Next For Rachel And Zenyatta

Now that both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta (photo at left) have apparently come out of their Saturday victories in good health, all eyes are turning to their next starts and the possible match-up between the two.

From his barn at Hollywood Park on Sunday, Zenyatta's trainer John Sherriffs said the $300,000 Clement Hirsh Stakes at Del Mar will likely be the next stop for the 2008 Champion and undefeated mare. The Clement Hirsh is at a 1-1/16 miles for fillies and mares on August 9.

No plans have been made following the Clement Hirsh for Zenyatta although her owner Jerry Moss said on XM radio Saturday that he is keeping options open to shipping Zenyatta to New York where she could possibly meet Rachel Alexandra.

As possible match-up between the two great mares in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at Santa Anita in early November is apparently out of the question for Rachel Alexandra's controlling owner Jess Jackson, who said last week that he will not race the filly on a synthetic racing surface which eliminates the Breeders' Cup

Meanwhile, trainer Steve Asmussen sent Rachel Alexandra to his barn at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York where she will be based this summer. No plans have been made for her next race but apparent possibilities include the $1 million Delaware Handicap for older fillies and mares at Delaware Park on July 19 and the $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks against 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park July 26. She may also return to take on her male counterparts in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park August 2.

Others being pointed to the Haskell for now include Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird and possibly Florida Derby winner and one-time Kentucky Derby favorite Quality Road.

In his first workout since finishing third in the Belmont Stakes, Mine That Bird went an easy half-mile in :51 at Churchill Downs on Monday morning in preparation for his next start in the Aug. 1 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort. Jockey Calvin Borel was aboard for the breeze.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Let the Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta Debate Continue

The racing gods continue to smile down upon us this year after two exciting wins by two brilliant mares Saturday with Rachel Alexandra winning the Mother Goose (photo at left) in New York and Zenyatta winning the Vanity at Hollywood Park. Add to that comments by Zenyatta owner Jerry Moss that he would consider taking Zenyatta outside of Southern California to face Rachel Alexandra and it was quite a good day for racing fans.

Rachel took the racing stage first Saturday in the $300,000 Mother Goose at Belmont Park, but faced only two rivals. Sent off at odds of 1-9, Rachel easily put away second-place finisher Malibu Prayer and Flashing. Her galloping final strides were no surprise, nor was the 19-3/4 length margin - although it eclipsed Ruffian's 1975 margin. But her final time of 1:46.33 broke the stakes record by nearly 7/10ths of a second and she did it with such ease. At one point just before the finish, jockey Calvin Borel seemed so relaxed it appeared he reached up and gave her a congratulatory pat or maybe just fixed her main for the photo.

Minutes later on the West Coast, Zenyatta remained undefeated winning the grade 1, $300,000 Vanity Handicap. Although she faced only four other rivals, Zenyatta met with considerable more adversity than Rachel, most notably the 129-pound assignment under the terms of the handicap conditions of the Vanity. The late running Zenyatta had less pace to run at than she would like, but stayed a bit closer to the pace and prevailed with confidence by 2-1/4 lengths with another late run.

At the top of the pace, it appeared the extra weight was a challenge for Zenyatta until she ranged alongside the leaders inside the 1/16th pole to the finish. That's when she pricked her ears as if to say a passing hello to eventual runner-up Briecat and third place finisher Dawn After Dawn.

Now the question begs as to where these two magical mares - although Rachel is technically a filly - could possible meet. My guess would be the grade 1, $400,000 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga in late August. Since Rachel Alexandra controlling owner Jess Jackson said Monday that he would not race his filly on a synthetic track, such as they have in Zenyatta home-base of Southern California - it appears Rachel's home of New York would be the next logical place for a possible match-up.

But Rachel Alexandra would again have to leave her comfort zone in the Personal Ensign, or any other race versus Zenyatta, because of the age difference. Rachel Alexandra is a 3-year-old and Zenyatta races against older mares. Both owning teams are trying to map out possible paths for not just divisional championship honors, but perhaps Horse of the Year honors as well.

Rachel Alexandra has already proven she can leave and win outside of her division of course, winning the Blackberry Preakness Stakes in May.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Borel Helping Old Friends

There is little doubt that jockey Calvin Borel's life has significantly changed with his new found fame as the rider of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Preakness Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra. Borel is in even more demand than after his 2007 Derby on Street Sense having done appearances on the The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman.

Borel has taken his new influence to other venues more noble as he recently became involved with the political campaign in Kentucky to allow slot machines at the state's tracks. But even a political campaign can be high profile. Not so high profile is the Old Friends Thoroughbred retirement facility in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Michael Blowen, the founder and president of Old Friends announced Thursday that Calvin will be a guest of honor at an Old Friends function in his honor to celebrate his Triple Crown achievements.

Borel, who was the regular rider for Old Friends resident Mark of Success, will be meeting attendees and signing autographs with all proceeds going to support the 50 retired Thoroughbreds at the farm. Tickets for the June 30 event are $20 and are open to the public. Old Friends is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and you may call them at 502-863-1775 for more information.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rachel Owner Says No Breeders' Cup

Blackberry Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra (photo to left) will not race in the 2009 Breeders' Cup World Championships according to her co-owner Jess Jackson. During a media teleconference held Wednesday in preperation for the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes this Saturday at Belmont Park, Jackson said he will not race the filly on an artificial surface. The Breeders' Cup will again be held at Santa Anita in Southern California which races on a "Pro-Ride" artificial surface on the main track as opposed to natural dirt.

Jackson is also a part owner of Curlin, the 2008 Horse of the Year who finished his career as the favorite in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Jackson also said that there is a very good chance the Rachel Alexandra will race next year as a 4-year-old and that he would love to race against 2008 Champion Zenyatta, just not on a synthetic track.

In honor of the Mother Goose Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Belmont Park will be offering free admission for women and giving away 10,000 pink bracelets embossed with Rachel Alexandra's name. Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, have said that they will donate a portion of the filly's earnings to the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure for breast cancer.

Rachel Alexadra is set to be heavily favored in the Mother Goose while facing only three other rivals including grade 3 Nassau County Stakes winner Flashing; grade 3 Florida Oaks winner Don't Forget Gil; and Malibu Prayer, who has won her last two races by wide margins.

On Monday at Churchill Downs, Rachel Alexandra completed preparations for the Mother Goose, a one-turn race run at nine furlongs, when she worked four furlongs in 49.80 seconds over a fast main track. Exercise rider Dominic Terry was aboard for the morning work but Calvin Borel will ride Rachel Alexandra for the seventh consecutive time in the Mother Goose.

Jackson said no plans have been made for Rachel Alexandra following the Mother Goose, but indicated that he is considering running her against her male counterparts again in either the grade 1 Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2 or the grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga in late August.

Assistant Starter Dies

Former jockey David Fowler-Wright (photo at right) was fatally injured in a starting gate accident at the San Joaquin County Fair on Sunday.

The 47-year-old native of England was working as a rake man and had just raked tracks after the start of the seventh race, a 1 1/16-mile race. He was standing on the gate as a tractor began to pull it out of the way of the field when he either slipped or attempted to jump off the moving gate and was run over by the gate's rear tires, track officials said.

The accident did not affect the running of the race, and officials said many in the crowd were unaware of the accident.

Fair officials, Stockton police, and representatives of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health are investigating the incident.

Fowler-Wright's U.S. riding career began in 2002, and he retired from riding in 2007 with 43 victories from 463 U.S. mounts. He recorded four stakes victories. Fowler-Wright rode primarily in Oregon and the Northern California fair circuit. He lived in Humboldt County in Northern California.

A moment of silence was scheduled to be held prior to Wednesday's racing. A memorial service will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the backstretch near the racing office.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Tries To Join Historical Group in Mother Goose Stakes

Rachel Alexandra will be returning to the races Saturday in the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park in her first start since winning the Blackberry Preakness Stakes in mid-May. And while the Mother Goose does not carry the prestige or coverage of the Preakness, the Mother Goose is a significant race in it's own right.

It is a grade 1 race, making it among the most prestigious and historically competitive; and it is the second leg to the Triple Tiara of Thoroughbred racing, otherwise known as the Filly Triple Crown. The series is comprised of the one mile Acorn Stakes on Belmont day, the 1-1/8 mile Mother Goose and the 1-1/4 Coaching Club American Oaks in late July. Only eight fillies have swept the series beginning with Dark Mirage in 1968.

The Mother Goose has a rich history since first being run in 1957 when Outer Space and jockey William Legget won the first running.

One of my favorites is 1969 winner Shuvee, who was also the second filly to win the Triple Tiara. Now in the Hall of Fame, Shuvee is perhaps best remembered with her victory in the 1970 Jockey Club Gold Cup when she became the only filly to defeat the colts in the then two mile race.

The most famous Triple Tiara winner is of course, Ruffian (photo at left) who took the crown in 1975. She was undefeated in ten career races before a fatal injury suffered in an infamous match race against Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure.

Now burried in the infield at Belmont Park, Ruffian was perhaps one of the most amazing race horses of anytime. Lucien Laurin, Secretariat's trainer, once said of Ruffian, "As God as my witness, she may even be better than Secretariat."

After breaking her maiden in record time by 15 lengths, Ruffian went on to set a new stakes record in each of her eight added-money victories and equalled two track records. She was a massive, black filly that stood 17 hands high and broke on top in every race and was never headed at any point during her career before the fatal race in July of 1975.

But the Mother Goose has produced a long list of recognizable female greats including Chris Evert in 1974, 1984 winner Life's Magic, trained by D.Wayne Lukas; Go For Wand in 1990; Sky Beauty, the last Triple Tiara winner in 1993; and Serena's Song, also trained by Lukas, in 1995.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rich Ed Burke Futurity Ends in Dead Heat

When the gates sprang open for Saturday night's $960,000 Ed Burke the first few strides of the race looked more like futulity than futurity. Horses were bouncing off of each other and jockeys were grabbing their steering wheels. But 350 yards and 17.34 seconds later history was made again at Los Alamitos Race Course as heavy favorite LD Fire hit the wire in a dead heat with Streakin Laquinta. It was the first dead heat for win in the west coast classic that dates back to 1951 and the first Ed Burke Futurity win for Los Alamitos all-time leading jockey Eddie Garcia, who rode Streakin Laquinta. Alejandro Luna rode LD Fire

A Brock Talk salute to jockey Eddie Razo Jr. on winning three races Saturday at Arlington Park near Chicago. Included in his big day was a stakes double with victories in the $88,000 Purple Violet Stakes with Bow Tie Pasta and the $89,000 Lincoln Heritage Stakes with Apple Martini. Razo is married to Doreen Razo who provides the Brock Talk with our Rene Douglas updates through Facebook.

Another exciting finish today happened in the grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs in Virginia with jockey Tyler Baze taking the inside track abaoard Battle of Hastings to take the $500,000 stake for 3-year-olds. Runner-up Straight Story made a valiant run after being carrried five-wide on the final turn and is a horse to watch. As if being a New York-bred by Giant's Causeway enough to caputure attention.

Straight Story was purchased for $400,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September Yearling Sale by trainer Alan Goldberg for owner Richard Santulli.

A crowd of 28,011 was on hand Friday to witness the first night racing in the storied history of Churchill Downs. And just as similar Friday night debuts at tracks in recent decades, the crowds are reported to be younger and the atmosphere more electric. Congratulations to the Churchill Downs team including the horsemen and jockeys.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Set For Mother Goose Stakes

Blackberry Preakness and Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra has been scheduled to make her next start in the grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes next Saturday at Belmont Park according to a statement released by co-owner Jess Jackson.

“Rachel is rested, healthy and ready to run,” Jackson said in the statement. She is expected to leave her base at trainer Steve Asmussen's barn at Churchill Downs and ship to New York on June 23. The Mother Goose carries a $300,000 purse and is for 3-year-old fillies going a 1-1/8 miles.

Meanwhile, trainer Tim Ice has said that Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird is being pointed toward the grade 1 Haskell Invitation to be run August 2 at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey.

Others being pointed toward the $1,000,000 Haskell include Musket Man, who was third in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and the winner of the Illinois Derby; and Big Drama, who finished first in his first six starts before crossing the wire fifth in the Preakness.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two Parties Show Interest In Saving Les Bois

Two groups interested in operating live and simulcast horse racing at Les Bois Park, a thoroughbred and quarter horse track located near Boise, Idaho, have submitted proposals to lease the facility from the Ada County commissioners.

The Greene Group, which operates a simulcast facility in Post Falls, Idaho, submitted its second bid for Les Bois. The group's initial proposal was rejected by the county in April. The county invited the group to bid again after the two parties discussed what equipment and responsibilities were included in the lease.

The second group that submitted a proposal is Oneida Capital LLC, a California-based company that operates off-track betting facilities and race tracks including Montana Downs in Great Fallas, Montana; and Wyoming Downs in Evanston, Wyoming as well as OTB parlors in Montana and New York.

The lease for the facility became available when former operator Capitol Racing opted out of its five-year deal, citing losses of more than $1 million in each of the three years it ran the track. The county then accepted proposals from new operators but didn't find a suitable deal, setting up this second round of bids.

Some stakes races planned for Les Bois have been moved because of the uncertainty surrounding the largest race track in Idaho.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mine That Bird For Sale?

Sid Fernando, an internationally known pedigree writer and former bloodstock agent, has posted on his blog that offers have been made to purchase Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird (photo to left). According to Fernando an offer has already been made and apparently declined by Mine That Bird owners Dr. Leonard Blach and Mark Allen, both of Roswell, New Mexico. Neither the asking price nor the offer have been disclosed but it is speculated that it would take between $4 million and $5 million to purchase Mine That Bird.

Only 14 other North American thoroughbreds have made more than $6 million on the track including Curlin, the all-time leader with $10,501,800.

Anytime a Kentucky Derby winner is available for sale or even syndication, it's news. But what makes this particularly interesting is the fact that Mine That Bird is a gelding and has no additional earning power in the breeding shed after his racing career.

Kentucky Derby winners, regardless of their pedigree, are typically able to command considerable fees for their breeding - at least for a few years before their get begin to pass through the auction rings and perform on the track. That's when most stallion careers are established regardless of racing history or pedigree.

Big Brown, last year's Derby winner, has a stud fee of $65,000 per breeding and 2007 Derby winner Street Sense stands for $60,000. Stallions in that price range generate approximately $4 million to $6 million annually depending on the number of mares they able breed each season. That would make their value somewhere in the $30-$50 million range with a book of between 60 and 100 mares annually.

2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo was an exception to the Derby-winner rule as he stood for only $12,500 during 2006, his first year as a stallion. He had two major things going agaist him as a stallion in that his racing career featured only three wins from 16 career starts and his sire Holy Bull, is not known as a sire of sires in breeding circles. Giacomo stands for $7,500 at Adena Springs Farms near Lexington, Kentucky.

While on Facebook this afternoon, I noticed the 8th race at Delaware Park was of sudden interest as friend Alex Brown had posted that Barbaro's little brother was set to run. Moments after the race, Brown again posted, this time with results that Nicanor (bottom photo) had won. Both Nicanor and 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro are by the stallion Dynaformer, and out of the Carson City mare La Ville Rouge. Both were bred by their owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, and Nicanor is also trained by Michael Matz.

Nicanor's victory in the $40,500 allowance race on the turf was his second consecutive victory since moving from the dirt. He broke his maiden last time out by some 15 lengths on the grass and won today by 3-3/4 lengths. He now has two wins and two seconds from five career starts and earnings of $60,900 and today was ridden by Rosie Napravnik in the 1-1/8 mile turf race.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Smarty Jones Update

Smarty Jones was one of the more popular Triple Crown contenders in recent years as he was the first undefeated winner of the Kentucky Derby since Seattle Slew in 1977. He went on to win the Preakness, but just got edged by Birdstone to miss becoming only the twelfth Triple Crown winner in history.

Birdstone of course, is again in the limelight as a stallion having sired both Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird. Birdstone's stallion fee of $10,000 will surely be much more expensive for those wanting to breed their mares to him in 2010.

Breedings to Smarty Jones are available privately for Smarty Jones who like Birdstone, has his oldest runners now racing as 3-year-olds.

While browsing through some things posted by friends on Facebook, I happened on a this photo of a Smarty Jones' offspring posted by Three Chimney Farms where Smarty Jones now resides near Lexington, Kentucky. Kiddari (Top Photo), a 3-year-old filly owned and bred by Frank and Jane Lyon's Summer Wind Farms, is shown winning her second consecutive race at Churchill Downs Saturday. This was a $50,200 allowance race, (the highest level of races behind only stakes) and boosted her earnings to $63,355 in her young career.

The top money earner for Smarty Jones is Be Smart, who as a 2-year-old filly last year was a second-place finisher in the grade 1 Darley Acibiades Stakes at Keeneland behind Dream Express and has earned $137,500.

His other recent winner is Backtalk, a 2-year-old colt trained by Tom Amoss who broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last Thursday. Backtalk won in his first try and is Smarty Jones' first winner from his class. Another recent maiden winner is Ritzy Jones (Bottom Photo) shown winning at Philadephia Park.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Macho Again Upsets In Foster

Einstein never had much of a chance at history in the $660,000 Stephen Foster Handicap Saturday as he and jockey Julien Leparoux were repeatedly in need of racing room around the far turn and into the stretch. To watch the featured Churchill Downs race is to watch a lesson in trip handicapping but jockey Robby Albardo was there to capitalize with an upset victory aboard Macho Again. Asiatic Boy was second in a photo for place with Einstein who finished third under the highweight of 124 pounds. Macho Again was seven pounds lighter having been assigned 117 pounds by the track handicapper.

It was the third consecutive win in the Foster for Albarado and the victory pushed Macho Again's career earnings to $1,475,247 from six wins in 18 starts. Earlier this year, he won the grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds and last year won the grade 2 Jim Dandy as a 3-year-old. He was also second in the Preakness last year behind Big Brown.

The next start for Macho Again according to trainer Dallas Stewart will be the Whitney Handicap at Saratogo on August 8.

Watch the video of the Stephen Foster by clicking on the link to the right.

In an AP story about the Jockeys' Guild settling with former boss Wayne Gurtmenian, one line particularly caught my attention. "as part of the plan, the Guild has notified jockeys that it will no longer continue to provide health insurance because it was not economically feasible."

The Jockeys' Guild has had financial troubles dating back to at least 2005 and is currently going through bankruptcy proceeding in a effort to reoraganize financially. A Judge has approved a plan that will allow the Guild to emerge from bankruptcy. The Guild will still provide disability and life insurance and continue to be an advocate for jockeys on health and safety issues and has a membership of some 1,200 jockeys throughout North America.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Smart Money Will Be On Einstein

Today Einstein (BRZ) will try to become the first horse to ever win a grade 1 race on three different surfaces in the same year when he goes in the $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. After winning the Santa Anita Handicap on Santa Anita's pro-ride track in March and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs May 2, he tries for the surface trifecta on natural dirt today in the Foster.

One might be hesitant to give significant credit for this feat considering that artificial surfaces have not been widely in place until recent years when the Southern California tracks; Keeneland and Turfway Park in Kentucky; and Woodbine near Toronto installed them. But I had to go back pretty far to the likes of Perrault (GB) and John Henry in the early 1980s before I could think of a great horse that consistently won on turf and dirt repeatedly in grade 1 races. There's undoubtably some that I may have missed in the last 30 years, I'm sure, but not many I'll bet.

This race should also be of interest to the more casual fan because it will likely play a significant role in defining who your Triple Crown favorite might face in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita in early November.

The connections of Mine That Bird have announced that the Kentucky Derby winner will be making his next start in the grade 2 West Virginia Derby on August 1 at Mountaineer Park. Trainer Chip Woolley Jr., and co-owners Dr. Leornard Blach and Mark Allen have selected the West Virgina race over two other grade 1 races the same weekend for 3-year-olds. The more traditional and prestigious races are the grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 1 and the grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey the following day.

The reason: "“The West Virginia Derby fits our schedule the best and that’s the main thing,” Woolley said.


Woolley also said the grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga in late August and the Breeders' Cup Classic are their long-term targets. Mine That Bird will continue to train at his base at Churchill Downs until he makes the short van ride to West Virginia just before the West Virginia Derby.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Secretariat Coming To The Big Screen

A movie about the life and times of Secretariat, with the backing of Walt Disney Studios, is in the works. Filming for the major motion picture could begin as soon as the end of the year according to principles tied to the project. Writer Mike Rich, along with producers Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray were on a tour of the backstretch at Churchill Downs the morning of May 2. They had spent the evening before with Penny Chenery, owner of the 1973 Triple Crown winner.

"We're kind of conceptualizing the project and working on the rights right now," Gray said.

Rich is developing the script with the help of award-winning writer Bill Nack, who wrote the definitive book on Big Red: "Secretariat: The Making of a Champion" and who conducted the backstretch tour. Rich said "Nack is going to be invaluable to us. The great thing about Bill is that I can reference any workout, any fraction…he's like a human Internet."

Rich, Ciardi, and Gray collaborated on the Disney film "The Rookie." Rich has also written screenplays for "Finding Forrester" and "Radio." Ciardi and Gray have also been involved with Disney films "Miracle," and "Invincible."

Diane Lane has just accepted the role of Penny Chenery, a mother and housewife who knew little about horse racing when she took over her ailing father's farm in Virginia which included ownership of Secretariat. Around the time that Secretariat established himself as a horse with serious potential, she was pressured to sell him and everything else after her father died and she was hit with a large inheritance tax.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer Bird Points For Haskell

Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird arrived back at his barn at Louisiana Downs late Monday night after a flight from New York to Louisville, Kentucky then a van ride down to Bossier City, Louisiana.

Trainer Tim Ice said Summer Bird came out of the Belmont Stakes in good order and has done nothing but walk around the barn on Tuesday and Wednesday morning for exercise. Ice said Summer Bird will go back to the track this week and begin preperation for the $1 million Haskell Invitational to be run at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on August 2.

Don't feel too bad for Mark Allen, the co-owner of Belmont third-place finisher Mine That Bird. Later that Saturday afternoon his Quarter Horses ran 1-2 in the $308,073 Ruidoso Derby. Time For A Cigar defeated Shaboomato in the 400-yard race and both race under the Golden Eagle silks for trainer Tony Sedillo.

Churchill Downs again takes center stage in racing this weekend with the grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap for older horses. The morning line favorite is Einstein, your horse for any course horse. In his last two grade 1 races, he has won the Santa Anita Handicap over the synthetic racing surface in Southern California in March and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on grass at Churchill Downs. The $600,000 Steven Foster is run on natural dirt.

A victory would push Einstien, a Brazilian-bred, into third place on the 2009 money list among thoroughbreds.

Churchill will also feature on Saturday four other graded stakes and the traditional presentation of engraved trophies to the winning connections from the Kentucky Oaks and Derby.

Dunkirk emerged from his game second-place finish in Saturday's Belmont Stakes with a non-displaced condylar fracture in his left hind cannon bone and will most likely miss the remainder of his 3-year-old season, his connections announced Tuesday. The condyle is the round or bulbous bottom of the cannon bone on a horse which is similar to a shin bone on a human. In most cases, a condular fracture can easily be repaired with surgery and the horse can resume training in a few months.

The surgery will be performed at the Ruffian Equine Medical Center located next to Belmont Park before Dunkirk will be returned to his barn at Belmont Park Thursday and then sent to Ashford Stud in Lexington, Kentucky to recover.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith,, and Susan Magnier do want to try and bring Dunkirk back to the races if possible.

"I don't anticipate this would prevent him from reaching his maximum potential," Pletcher said. "There have been a lot of horses that have returned from this sort of injury and done extremely well."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Other Big Winning Bird: Birdstone

Just over five years ago in early June, the racing world was anticipating the Belmont Stakes as the possible crowning of the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Smarty Jones had blazed through Arkansas, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and entered the Belmont stakes undefeated in 8 career starts. However, on June 5, 2004, Smarty Jones finished a heartbreaking second in the Belmont Stakes, being upset in a late charge by the 36-1 longshot Birdstone. Speculation arose that the loss was a result of jockey Stuart Elliott allowing Smarty Jones to assume the lead too early.

That day, Birdstone was the villian. But during this year's Triple Crown races, Birdstone was royal. Because the son of 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone produced both Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont Stakes victor Summer Bird from his crop of foals to race. (Or in non-breeding venacular, his oldest kids.) And just as he did as a diminutive 1,000 pound race horse, Birdstone once again emerged from the shadows to grab the spotlight. Only this time at the Kentucky breeding farms.

Because before this year's Triple Crown, before the 2009 breeding season that recently ended, the stud fee on Birdstone was a paultry $10,000. Meaning that if you wanted to breed your mare to Birdstone, it cost you $10,000 for that service. Ten thousand dollars may sound like quite a sum, but consider that the sire of Belmont runner-up Dunkirk, Unbridled Song, stands for $125,000. The sire of Belmont Stakes also-ran Mr. Hot Stuff is by Tiznow, who has a $75,000 stud fee.

But why the low fee on Birdstone. Afterall, he was a winner of the Belmont Stakes - The Test of Champions. He had won the prestigious, $500,000 Champagne Stakes as a 2-year-old showing his early talent. And after the Belmont, he went on to win the grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga before retiring with a $1.5 million bankroll.

He was undoubtably penalized by his sire somewhat. Even though Grindstone was himself a Kentucky Derby winner, his days in the breeding shed have not been that productive other than Birdstone. Perhaps he was penalized by his stature. He stands just over 15.3 hands (63 inches), short by thoroughbred stallion standards, a trait he apparently passed on to Mine That Bird. Breeders like to see much larger thoroughbred stalllions that are at least 16.2 hands (66 inches) and Unbridled's Song is 17 hands even by comparison.

That genetic mark probably had an impact when his first get started going through the all important thoroughbred auctions and brought just over an average of $41,000, well below the $90,000 to $100,000 prices for yearlings at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in Lexington, Kentucky, just miles from where Birdstone currently reside at the famous Gainesway Farm.

But now Birdstone is going to demand much more for his treasured traits with Mine That Bird and Summer Bird both now classic winners. Some estimate his 2010 fee will be raised into the $40,000 range. And because high performance begets higher demand, he will have more mares to breed next year. That means his value could go from approximately $2 million to $20 million by some estimates.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird arrived at his barn at Churchill Downs Monday morning just before 11:00 am and was treated to a 40 minute graze and walk with groom Charlie Figueroa. Trainer Chip Woolley said the trip was uneventful and will allow Mine That Bird some well deserved rest before making any plans for his next race.

“It was an uneventful flight and he handled the trip well,” said Woolley. “He came out of the Belmont great. He has held up well and hasn’t lost any weight. I am tickled with where he is at now.

“He is definitely going to walk for three or four days and then I may back-track him a couple of days to get the kinks out,” Woolley said. Back-tracking is a mild form of morning exercise in which horses trot or slowly gallop clockwise around the outside part of the track and away from serious morning activity closer to the inside rail.

Also at Churchill Downs this morning, Preakness and Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra went to the track for a serious work breezing six furlongs in 1:13.80. Trainer Steven Asmussen said he will speak with the owners about the fillies next racing engagement which may be the $300,000 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park on July 27. A race in which she may meet Gabby's Golden Girl, who won the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park Saturday.

Overnight television ratings for ABC’s June 6 telecast of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) were down sharply from 2008 figures, which is expected when no Triple Crown is on the line.

The overall rating for the two-hour presentation was 4.3 which means that approximately 3.44 million television set were tuned to the telecast. However, in the segemtn which featured the actural race garnered a 5.0 rating. While the rating is down significantly from 2008’s 8.4 when Big Brown was going for the Triple Crown, it did represent an increase from the last two non-Triple Crown-possible years in 2007 and 2006, which did 3.1 and 3.6, respectively.

“Given the circumstances, these are terrific ratings that represent an increase in interest in the Belmont Stakes and perhaps horse racing in general,” said Mark Mandel, a spokesman for ABC/ESPN.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Belmont Trainers Report All's Well

Trainers of the top four finishers in Saturday's Belmont Stakes all came out of the race in good order and are resting at their barns at Belmont Park.

Charitable Man and Dunkirk will remain at their barns at Belmont Park while winner Summer Bird and third-place finisher Mine That Bird will be flown back to Churchill Downs early Monday. Summer Bird will then travel by van to trainer Tim Ice's homebase at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La. Plans as to where Chip Woolley will train Mine That Bird this summer have not been determined.

“We’ve discussed the Jim Dandy and the Travers with the owners (Drs. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman),” said winning trainer Tim Ice, his voice still hoarse Sunday morning from cheering Summer Bird home in Saturday. “If we go, like we did for the Belmont, we’ll go ahead of time, ship up a month before the (August 1) Jim Dandy.

“People tell me you have to go to two places – Del Mar and Saratoga,” said Ice, who took out his trainer’s license 14 months ago. “I’ve been to Del Mar, and to take a horse like this and go to Saratoga would be amazing.”

Summer Bird, who was making only his fifth career start in the Belmont, came out of the mile-and-a-half race in great shape, said Ice.

“I had him grazing for two hours,” he said. “He looks great.”

No definite racing plans have been made for any of the other three horses, but races like the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey or the Jim Dandy Stakeare possibly next for any of them. The Jim Dandy is run on Saturday, August 1 and the Haskell is run the following day. Races such as the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in September and the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita in early November were mentioned as longer term goals.

While the mood at Mine That Bird’s barn on Sunday morning was somewhat subdued, Mine That Bird himself showed no signs of exhaustion for his impressive effort running third in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

“He feels awful good this morning,” said trainer Chip Woolley “Awful bright and bouncing – he’s ready to get out and go do something.”

One look at the little gelding walking around the barn, peering inquisitively at the small crowd gathered outside bore this statement out. His trainer, stretched out in a lawn chair complete with footrest and cup holder for coffee, admitted a touch of fatigue.

“Talk about whipped,” Woolley said. “About halfway through dinner last night I just said ‘Guys, I’m done,’ and I’m not that type at all. I couldn’t believe how I hit a wall last night. I never thought I’d be sitting here sort of down about running third in the Belmont – this has been a lifetime dream.”

Although he is understandably disappointed by the loss, Woolley keeps it in perspective.

“When he was making for the lead as they turned for home, I was thinking ‘We’re in trouble,’” Woolley said. “It was just too early to make the lead here and I was really concerned we’d used a little too much horse in the turn. If you move too early with this horse, his past history shows he comes up empty. Tim (Ice, trainer of winning Summer Bird) is a great guy and he deserves to win. He’s done a nice job with his horse.”

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Thoughts, Comments And Questions About The Belmont Stakes

The curse of the big sandy struck again when 11-1 longshot Summer Bird ran past the three favorites in deep stretch to win the 141st running of the Belmont Stakes. Summer Bird's victory lifted on heck of a big monkey off the back of winning jockey Kent Desormeaux, who missed two chances at the Triple Crown by not winning the 1998 Belmont on Real Quiet and again last year on Big Brown.

Dunkirk survived a steward's inquiry after the race and a stretch run against favorite Mine That Bird to get second while the later finished third. Charitable Man was fourth.

But the race emphasized just how difficult it is this marathon of a race. We will never know if Mine That Bird took Calvin Borel closer to the leaders too early as the jockey explained after the race, or if Borel misjudged his timing, so many great jockeys before him I might add, and compromised his chances at a personal Triple Crown.

Mine That Bird did look a bit tightly wound when shown by ABC making the walk from the stable area to the saddling paddock, but really no more energetic than he did waltzing onto the stage at Pimlico three weeks ago. But for some reason, despite announcer Tom Durkins description, Mine That Bird simply didn't fire when and like he did at Churchill Downs in the Derby or again in the Preakness.

It was a dissappointing loss for many who were pulling for Mine That Bird, including the throngs of New York racing fans that were wearing cowboy hats in his honor. In fact, it is believed that there hasn't been that many cowboys at a New York city event since the Dennis Weaver/McCloud fan club disbanded in the early 1980s.

Something tells me that Mine That Bird will return as a dangerous foe when he returns to the customary one-mile ovals of most North American tracks.

More Thoughts, Comments and Questions.
The best line of the day came from ESPN's Kenny Mayne (of course) when he said being a maiden is worse than being a virgin because a maiden hasn't even won a horse race... The worst line(s) of the day of course, came from Hank Goldberg of the same broadcast team. He took two stabs at trying to tell the story about his conversation with jockey Jeremy Rose (once on the ESPN pre-Belmont telecast, and then again on the ABC telecast.) Take three. My favortite and most uncomfortable Goldberg moment was when Goldberg was describing the other Derby and Preakness horses that had not made it to the Belmont saying the series knocked-off others... knocked-out the others... I'm glad he stopped there... Wasn't the story about racing vernacular in our every day lives a good one?... Wasn't the feature with Kenny Mayne and Chip Woolley in the pick-up truck a bad one. Even with Woolley doing an admirable job it was bad... My wife came up with a interesting thought on the popularity of the horses in this Triple Crown season. Seabiscuit ran during the depression. Secretariat during another challenging time during our country's history. Things could be better now... Whatever producer decided to use The Rail Blog's Joe Drape and Steve Haskin of in the Longshot feature on ESPN and ABC made a good choice. Both veteran turf writers make my recommended reading list on a regular basis... As a longtime fan of thoroughbred racing in this the Ark-La-Tex, I send congratulations to Summer Bird owners and breeders Drs. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaraman who have raced horses in this region for more than 30 years... Gabby's Golden Gal won the grade 1 Acorn Stakes for 3-year-old fillies earlier in the day to take her spot as one of the top fillies in the country that is not as fast as Rachel Alexandra...

Winning Arlington Park Team Honors Jockey Rene Douglas

On a day set aside to honor injured jockey Rene Douglas, Stephanie Clark, owner of Silverfoot who won the $54,100 The Tin Man Stakes, and fellow rider Jesse Campbell, who was aboard $53,300 Nicole's Dream Stakes heroine Taylor Madison, each paid tribute to Douglas following their respective victories.

Clark said that she was donating the $32,460 winner's share to the fund set up by Douglas's family and friends to help defray the costs incurred since he was injured in a May 23 racing incident.

"I'd like to donate the purse we just won from Silverfoot to Rene's fund and wish him well," Clark said. "We thank him for the wonderful opportunity last year (winning the Grade III Stars and Stripes aboard Silverfoot and finishing fourth in the Grade I Arlington Million)."

Earlier in the day, the jockeys at Arlington Park held an autograph session to help raise money for Rene Douglas and his family. Jockeys at Arlington Park and at racetracks across the country donated earnings to help Douglas and other riders who benefit from the Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund. To learn more about the PDJF click on the link below.

Today at Belmont Park

That patch you see on the right boot of some jockeys today at Belmont Park is a tribute of support for jockey Rene Douglas, who was severly injured at Arlington Park two weeks ago and still hospitalized in Chicago... The Woody Stephens Stakes run today at Belmont Park provided a good omen for Belmont starter Dunkirk. Trained by the Dunkirk team of Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, Munnings is also Dunkirks morning workmate, which means to typically work against each other during the most serious morning trips to the track... Munnings victory was also from off the pace which is good news for Mine That Bird fans... Trainer Jimmy Jerkins was interviewed on ESPN by Jay Privman and gave us update on the quarter crack injury that kept Florida Derby winner Quality Road out of the Run for the Roses. Progress looks good and I for one am looking for a strong return of Quality Road later this summer... Today's Acorn Stakes is a national showcase of some of Rachel Alexandra division... Winner Gabbys Golden Gal is another product of the previously maligned racing program at little Sunland Park near El Paso, Texas. Same little track that gave us Mine That Bird.

Today at Belmont Park

Kent Desormeaux, who wll ride Summer Bird in the Belmont Stakes, has won three races so far today at Belmont Park... The racing surface, rated good earlier today, is not only now rated as fast, but seems to be favoring frunt runners. If so, this appears to be a disadvantage for late closer Mine That Bird. Not so fast says trainer Kiaran McLaughlin who will saddle speedy Charitable Man in the Belmont. The speed favoring track may mean more company, hence more early pressure during the early stages of the Belmont... ESPN's coverage today is insightful with commentary by Randy Moss and former jockey Jerry Bailey. The Calvin Borel feature is reason enough to tune in as it is scheduled to run again this afternoon... As are the Bill Nack written historical features showing in and out of commercial breaks.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Belmont Stakes Will Be Tough Challenge For Jockey Calvin Borel.

If anybody saw jockey Calvin Borel on the Late Show with David Letterman last night, they saw pretty much what would be expected. Honest-to-goodness Calvin Borel. Ever polite and quite composed, he was as insightful as the format allowed and he came through with his patent unpredictability when Letterman stunned him with the outfit question. My bottom line is that anytime one gets to hear a good horseman like Borel talk about good horses it's cool.

But I fear Calvin has a tough task ahead of him on favorite Mine That Bird today in the Belmont. And nobody could have said it better than Churchill Downs Communications man Darren Rogers. Today on his facebook page Rogers admitted that he and his Chuchill crew will be pulling for Mine That Bird in New York, but that he saw an upset in the making. The villian according to Rogers? Pace. The very thing I have written about throughout the week.

What is Borel going to do when the pace of the Belmont is slow as anticpated. Will he move Mine That Bird within striking distance a little earlier? Will that comprosise his patent late rush? Or Borel can lay far back behind a slow pace and still try to make a still make that late run and hope he can still catch the less tired leaders. To me this is the second most anticipated point in the race behind only the finish... and way ahead of the singing of New York New York.

On paper Dunkirk looks to me to be the logical choice. His second-place finish behind Quality Road in the Floriday Derby in late March is a far better performance than most of these other runners have yet achieved. He will also be saddled by champion trainer Todd Pletcher and ridden by jockey John Valazquez, a perenial leader among the East Coast riders. Valazquez knows the large Belmont oval known as the "big sandy" as well as anybody and won the Belmont Stakes two years ago with Pletcher and the filly Rags to Riches.

According to Progessive Handicapping, Borel has only three races over the Belmont track in the last three years with a second and a third. The record is of little consequence. What concerns me is that the 1-1/2 main track at Belmont Park is 50 percent larger than the Kentucky and Arkansas tracks on which Borel regularly rides. Many riders have fallen victim to the big track at the Big Apple and that list does not discriminate against Hall of Famers.

Usually much more reserved, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has been boasting all week about his Belmont starter Charitable Man. The anticipated second choice in the wagering is coming off of a victory at Belmont Park in winning the grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes May 9 so we know he likes the track. And Charitable Man does have the home-track advantage as well as McClughlin has been basing Charitbable Man out of his barn at Belmont Park.

Nobody wants Mine That Bird and Calvin Borel to win this race more than me. Not only do I think it would be very fun to have a horse like Mine That Bird continue on his path to racing stardom, but to see Calvin Borel win the Triple Crown in such distinctive fashion will be somthing people will remember for a long time. If Mine That Bird achieves to status and following of the last Kentucky Derby winning gelding Funny Cide, it will be to the benefit of all racing fans. That late acceleration that he has makes him even more exciting and fun to watch.

And those post-victory horseback interviews with Borel on network television are worth the price of admission alone. It won't matter if we see the emotional Calvin Borel we saw following the Kentucky Derby or a more calm Calvin Borel talking about how he just chirped to the little horse and he just went on. Listening to Borel talk about horses is cool.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who Is Your Belmont Selection?

Tell us who you think will win the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Tell us why you like your horse, or why you don't like another blogger's selection by clicking on "Comments" below this post.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Belmonts Stakes Trifecta

For those of you who have less tolerance for risk but would still like to take a chance at an inexpensive trifecta, we have built what I would call a "trifecta of favorites." With Mine That Bird as the solid 8-5 favorite in the Daily Racing Form, we will key him on top of this trifecta wheel with a total cost of $4.

It is actually four $1 trifectas. Don't expect a big pay-off if this trifecta hits, but a small win is sometimes better than no win at all.

7 - Mine That Bird must finish first
2,6 - Dunkirk or Charitable man must finish second
1,2,6 - Chocolate Candy, Dunkirk or Charitable Man must finish third.

To Place This Bet:
Amount of Wager: $1
Type of Wager: Trifecta Wheel
"Belmont Stakes, $1 Trifecta. May I have the 7 WITH the 2,6 WITH the 1,2,6."
Total Cost = $4

Beat The Favorite Ticket
If you've read any of my previous similar postings, you know that I like to try to beat the favorite. Many things can happen to create an upset of Mine That Bird but the reality is that if that if he fires like he did in the Derby and Preakness, he will be very, very difficult to beat.

But if he must be within striking distance of a slow pace, I think that means jockey Calvin Borel may have to try to place him slightly closer to the early leaders which should be Chocolate Candy, Miner's Escape and perhaps Charitable Man. By closer, I mean maybe ten lengths back instead of 15 lengths behind the leaders when they come out of the first turn.

Based on a very simple Progressive Handicapping statistic, we know that Calvin Borel doesn't have a lot of experience at the giant 1-1/2 Belmont Park oval having ridden only three races there in the last three years with a second and a third. That combined with a tricky slow pace could be trouble for Mine That Bird.

Combine that with the wear and tear of the Triple Crown and we think he's beatable. So here's our ticket:

2,6 - Dunkirk or Charitable Man must win
2,6,8 - Dunkirk, Charitable Man or Flying Private must finish second.
2,6,7,8 - Dunkirk, Charitable Man, Mine That Bird or Flying Private must finish third.

To Place This Bet:
Amount of Wager: $1
Type of Wager: Trifecta Wheel
"Belmont Stakes, $1 Trifecta. May I have the 2,6 WITH the 2,6,8 WITH the 2,6,7,8."
Total Cost = $8

Mine That Bird Draws Post 7 for Belmont

post positions, jockeys and morning line odds for Saturday’s Belmont

1. Chocolate Candy, Garrett Gomez, 10-1
2. Dunkirk, John Velazquez, 4-1
3. Mr. Hot Stuff, Edgar Prado, 15-1
4. Summer Bird, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1
5. Luv Gov, Miguel Mena, 20-1
6. Charitable Man, Alan Garcia, 3-1
7. Mine That Bird, Calvin Borel, 2-1
8. Flying Private, Julian Leparoux, 12-1
9. Miner’s Escape, Joe Lezcano, 15-1
10. Brave Victory, Rajiv Maragh, 15-1
Blinkers on: Summer Bird

1 - (23) 3 - (13) 5 - (14) 7 - (12) 9 - (4) 11 - (2)
2 - (11) 4 - (9) 6 - (7) 8 - 6) 10 - (2)

“C” is the most popular first initial for winning Belmont runners. "C" horss have taken 20 runnings of the race. There have only been four Belmont Stakes winners whose first initial is "M"... There has never been a walkover in the Belmont. There have been five two-horses fields: 1887, 1888, 1892, 1910 and when Man o’ War won in 1920. The largest field was 15 in 1983, when Caveat defeated Slew o’ Gold... MINE THAT BIRD is trying to become the first horse since Thunder Gulch in 1995 to win the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes... The Belmont Stakes trophy is a solid silver bowl and cover made by Tiffany & Co. It is 18 inches tall, 15 inches across and 14 inches at the base. Atop the cover is a silver figure of 1869 Belmont winner Fenian. It was the trophy August Belmont received when Fenian won the third running and it had since remained with the Belmont family. The winning owner may keep the trophy for a year until the next Belmont winner is crowned.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Belmont Stakes, The Test of Champions

The Belmont Stakes is known as "The Test of Champions." That moniker is attributed mostly to the long, 1-1/2 mile distance of the Belmont but it is the race's place in the racing schedule that also makes it an examination of endurance and stamina.

The Kentucky Derby is traditionally run on the first Saturday in May. The Preakness is just two weeks later. Then there is three weeks between the second and third leg of the Triple Crown. This grueling series of three races in just five weeks also comes after a trying spring of running in very competitive races such as the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and others. And those are just the final preps that are usually proceeded by two, three or four races before that in most pre-Triple Crown campaigns.

Legendary trainer Charlie Whittingham once said thoroughbreds are like strawberries - they can go bad on you overnight. So you can imagine how special and talented a horse must be to survive the Triple Crown only to have it culminate with the 12 furlong Belmont.

A closer look at the contenders for Saturday's race illustrates this point. Only pre-race favorite Mine That Bird and the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Flying Private have started in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Mine That Bird will be making his fifth start this year after prepping for the Derby on the sub-major league oval of Sunland Park near El Paso, Texas. Iron horse Flying Private will be making his ninth start of the year and will be the only Belmont starter to have raced in every month of 2009.

Chocolate Candy, Dunkirk, Mr. Hot Stuff and Summer Bird started in the Derby but skipped the Preakness. Luv Gov started in the Preakness, but missed the Derby. Charitable Man and Miner's Escape make their first appearances in a Triple Crown race.

In the last ten runnings of the Belmont only Afleet Alex in 2005 and Point Given in 2001 have won the Belmont after starting in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The last two winners, Da' Tara last year and the filly Rags to Riches in 2007 were both newcomers to the Triple Crown.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Borel Guarantees Belmont

Not even NBA players guarantee victories in New York. And they're going to play the Knicks. Major League baseball players wouldn't think of guaranteeing a victory in the hallowed halls of the all-new, sacred, state-of-the-art Yankee Stadium. Guarantee a victory against the football Giants and you'll probably get more than somebody's "you wanna piece of me?"

But there's our man Calvin Borel stepping off of his Belmont Stakes mount Mine That Bird after a Monday morning workout at Churchill Downs saying, "We're going to win it. No questions asked." Add to that his similar guarantee before the Preakness aboard a different horse just about three weeks ago. Although he and Rachel Alexendra lived up to that guarantee, nobody comes out trying to hit the guarantee double. Especially in New York.

But there's our man Calvin Borel. Egotistical? Brash? Boastful? Naive? Who the...? Nope. Calvin Borel. Bulletin board material for the other jockeys? Probably not. Jockeys at this level know they will have plenty to occupy their time and energy during the roughly two-and-a-half minutes it will take to run the Belmont Stakes. There is no room for malice aboard 1,000 pound horses running 40 miles per hour.

And there's our man Calvin Borel. He's now a two-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey who is trying to become the first jockey in history to win the Triple Crown on different horses. There's Calvin Borel getting ready to attempt something that will place him alongside the likes Eddie Arcaro, Bill Shoemaker, Woody Stephens, D. Wayne Lukas and company in the Triple Crown and thoroughbred racing record books.

As if being from the tiny, cajun town of St. Martinsville, South Louisiana, having a ninth-grade education and getting invited to a white tie dinner at the White House with President Bush and the Queen of England weren't enough, (I heard he accidentally called Prince Charles Street Sense but a jockey agent told me that), he goes off and guarantees a victory in the Belmont Stakes on Mine That Bird.

Who does something like that and doesn't allienate the world? Our man Calvin Borel. And not a head will turn in aghast nor a chin nod in disapproval. Is it possible to guarantee with humility? I don't know, but if anyone can do it, Calvin just did.

To add perspective to his quote: "I loved the way he went today," Borel said after the work. "He really came bouncing off the track once we were done. That's what I love about him. He's just so happy."

I'll bet you if Mine That Bird could talk, he would have said the same thing about Calvin.

Mine That Bird worked a half-mile in 50 seconds flat but worked the final eighth of a mile in a speedy 11.60 then galloped out five furlongs (5/8ths of a mile) in 1:02.2. Needless to to say trainer Chip Woolley was reported to be very pleased. Apparently the final test of the late firing mechanism was a success.

Mine That Bird will board a flight from Louisville, Kentucky to New York on Wednesday.

Belmont challenger Chocolate Candy finished his final preperation for the Derby by also working Monday morning at Belmont Park for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He also worked four furlongs covering the distance in 50.25 under restraint from exercise rider Lindsey Molina. He then galloped out in 1:03.59. Chocolate Candy was second in the Santa Anita Derby behind Pioneerof the Nile and fifth in the Kentucky Derby in his last two starts.